Climate change a reality
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with contributions from scientists in countries across the southern Africa region in 2013 published a report which pointed out that southern Africa could be among areas hardest hit by climate change.
True to the report, the reality for many countries in the region now is it’s either there are floods or there is a shortage of rainfall which result in serious droughts.
Climate change is the alteration of the earth`s climate caused by modern farming methods, deforestation and greenhouse gases emissions such as carbon dioxide which eventually lead to global warming.
Due to climate changes, the planting seasons are shifting and the southern African region is beginning to suffer major blows, with countries like Zimbabwe already feeling the heat.
According to the report, agriculture is the primary source of employment and income for most of the rural population in southern Africa.
“In Malawi about 40% of gross domestic product (GDP) comes from agriculture. In Zimbabwe, about 80% of the population depends directly on agriculture.
“More than 50% of agricultural land in the area is devoted to cereal crops, with maize accounting for more than 40% of the total harvested area.
“Some countries in the region, such as Botswana and Lesotho, struggle to meet demand for maize and sorghum and have to import large amounts, mainly from South Africa,” noted the report.
Zimbabwe Farmers` Union (ZFU) Executive Director, Paul Zacharia, says climate change is now a reality.
“Seasons have gone shorter, rainfall is erratic, and there are floods which negatively impact the yield, governments in the region should begin to look at climate change as a reality,” he said.
The question now is what is the Southern African Development Community doing or rather what should be done to ensure food security in the region.
The “State of the Planet Declaration” (PDF), issued by the Planet under Pressure Scientific Organising Committee highlights that:
“Interconnected issues require interconnected solutions. Multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches to addressing grand challenges such as climate change are essential,” says the declaration
Zacharia believes governments in the region should invest in irrigation and device proper water harvesting programmes.
“We should invest in irrigation and harvesting of water amongst, other ways of mitigating climate change,” he said.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe`s Small Grains and Cereal Producers Association (SGCPA) chairman, Basil Nyabadza, urges farmers in the southern African region to push for a change in the region`s eating habits between humans and livestock.
He says that both humans and livestock are jostling for the scarce maize crop, a situation unhealthy to the food security of the region. Instead, he says livestock should be given small grains like sorghum, pearl and finger millet.
“There is need for us to come up with strategies to counter the climate changes which are resulting in the shortage of maize. We need to change our eating habits in terms of the balance between humans and livestock.
“The region is faced with a tricky situation where humans and livestock are shoving for the scant maize crop and I suggest farmers should start feeding their livestock with small grains to ensure food security,” he said
SGCPA chairman also believes that, farmers in drought prone areas must start prioritising small grain crops that require less rainfall.
“The issue of climate change is a reality, it’s either there is drought or floods, and the question is what we are going to do about it as a nation.
“Oceania country of Australia has adopted the strategy and changed their eating habits through creating a balance between humans and livestock, and is doing well in terms of the food security of her citizens.
“Farmers in areas where rainfall is erratic and sometimes as low as 250mm per year areas must start prioritising small grains,” he said.
Speaking recently at the ZFU annual congress held under the theme “Coping with Drought and Climate Change for Sustainable Agricultural Practices”, Zimbabwe Seed Traders Association (ZSTA) chairperson Walter Chigora said small grains reduce the risk of farmers losing crops due to poor climatic conditions.
“Small grain crops like sorghum, millet and rapoko provide farmers with better crop options in areas where maize is a high risk crop,” said Chigora.
In light of that, Zimbabwe`s Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made, during a field trip with delegates from several African countries in March 2012, also alluded to this fact.
“It’s time the southern African region adopts crop diversification and accommodates small grains on a very serious note, to make sure that the effects of climate change will not be ravaging,” he said.
Indeed climate change is a reality and it is of paramount importance for countries in the region to join hands and come up with strategies to ease the scourge.